Season 2 of ‘House of Cards’ takes on military sexual assault


For at least the second time, an Air Force brochure that told victims of sexual assault “it may be advisable to submit than resist” has made it into a Hollywood story line.

The Underwoods take on sexual assault in the military in Season 2 of 'House of Cards.' (Netflix/Released)

The Underwoods take on sexual assault in the military in Season 2 of “House of Cards.” (Netflix/Released)

Season 2 of “House of Cards” — Netflix’s blockbuster political drama released Feb. 14 — takes on the familiar topic of sexual assault in the military. There is a watershed moment when the issue makes national headlines followed by calls for reform to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Some want moderate changes and others call for a total overhaul — including an independent justice system.

Those in favor of an overhaul make their point with a brochure disseminated by the military advising victims to submit to a sexual assault rather than resist.

A November episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” also took on sexual assault in the military, including a scene where prosecutors reference a pamphlet giving the same advice.

Such a brochure actually existed in the Air Force.

Last May, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., sent a copy of it to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, saying its contents blamed the victim and sent an inappropriate message.

A month later, the Air Force withdrew the brochure.

Season 2 of “House of Cards” mirrors an ongoing argument in Congress over just how sweeping changes to the UCMJ should be — including whether sexual assault complaints and subsequent investigations and prosecutions should be handled by an independent judicial system made up of military lawyers.

I’ll keep the details of the episodes — including how the hoopla began — under wraps for now in case you haven’t watched.


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  1. I am completely and utterly appalled by this kind of information that the Air Force or an branch of our Armed Forces would give our troops! As an Army veteran myself and a survivor of a sexual assault, along with over a year of retaliation by both my enlisted senior command and officer command, this disgusts me! In no way should anyone just willing submit to being assaulted. The only possible reason I could ever think this could even maybe come to thought is of one’s life is on the line. You cam survive murdered. So, the truth is, if some sick person is going to rape you, fight like hell! The torment you will live with is horrible and the guilt you will feel for not fighting back is haunting! Years after being nearly discharged for misconduct…and yes my unit tried to do so… I still wake up in the middle of the night screaming. It would tear me up to know someone took whoever’s moronic idea about this and put it to practice. It completely idiotic!!!

  2. I’ve taken several self defense courses, as well as law enforcement classes. Common themes taught are [paraphrased] “Do what it takes to survive” and “Don’t be a hero,” meaning if someone is threatening you with a weapon, “your life is more important.” This is likely the intent of the Shaw pamphlet when referencing one must consider your circumstances. It states to be especially careful if the attacker has a weapon. Poor choice of words, but I doubt the AF is suggesting victims just roll over and let themselves be attacked.

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